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July 7, 2009

Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs Come out of Beta

Google changed the meaning of "beta software" by launching applications in early stages and forgetting to remove the word "beta" even after years of testing. Gmail has been launched in April 2004 and it's still in beta after more than 7 years of development.

New York Times reports that Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk are coming out of beta today. Google hopes to convince businesses that the applications are good enough to be used in a corporate environment. "For business customers, it is an important sign in terms of the maturity of our product offering and commitment to this business. I've had C.I.O.s tell me that they would not consider a product labeled beta," explained a Google employee.

What's in a name? Apparently, not much, since Gmail's perpetual beta only meant that there are still significant features that need to be added. "We have very, very high standards for the product, as we do for all Google products. But we are not ready to come out of beta yet. There are a few things that we're working on, and once we meet a couple more of those criteria, we would love to come out of beta," said Gmail's Product Manager Todd Jackson in March.

Making labels more familiar was probably one of the things that had to be changed before Gmail could finally be good enough to drop the "beta" tag. Keith Coleman, Gmail Product Director, has a longer list of features that had to be added: integrated chat, mobile versions, open protocols, better anti-spam technology, a more flexible architecture.

"Some people think we should wait until we launch < one of ongoing secret projects >. Others say that, over the last five years, a beta culture has grown around web apps, such that the very meaning of "beta" is debatable. And rather than the packaged, stagnant software of decades past, we're moving to a world of rapid developmental cycles where products like Gmail continue to change indefinitely."

Update: If you think there's something missing from Gmail's logo, enable the "Back to Beta" feature from Gmail Labs to bring back the familiar logo. It's that easy to pretend that nothing happened.

16 comments:

  1. (Side note: I think it's ironic to see Google Talk coming out of beta. The last version of the software has been released in January 2007. Maybe we'll finally see an update, but I doubt it.)

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  2. The "back to beta" labs feature is hilarious.. now please give use "back to when gmail didn't exist" :-)

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  3. "back to when gmail didn't exist"

    Then the logo would read "Hotmail" and there would be only 2mb usable space on the inbox. 24% of that space would be prefilled with spam.

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  4. "the very meaning of "beta" is debatable"

    No its not, its well defined. Wikipedia has a good bash:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_version#Beta

    It covers Google usage; so need to somehow high-jack/justify the term.

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  5. didn't think this day will ever come :D

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  6. Congratulations!

    Yet I don't understand why the new flash uploader doesn't work with Firefox 3.5?

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  7. So far Google Talk is the only app left that still says Beta. I downloaded the file from their site and it is still the beta version. I wonder if they will release new features in the download?

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  8. Google Talk seems rather dead in terms of support on Google's part. All my Gmail buddies use it (mostly the PC ones actually).

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  9. I think Google Docs is by far Google's most important application. It's really incredible and I am glad to see it come out of Beta as well.

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  10. @Stuart:
    Well, the meaning of "beta" is well defined on Wikipedia, but not in most people's mind.

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  11. When Gtalk ll come out of beta..

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  12. Yesterday I lost all my gmail contacts after a spam mail was sent to all of them (contacts) from my gmail account. All of this is happening when gmail is out of beta. Well done guyz! Keep it up!!!

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  13. @Drazick (http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2009/07/gmail-google-calendar-google-docs-come.html#c124376050881859705)

    The flash uploader DOES work - just not in compose mode within the Gmail interface.

    If you SHIFT + Compose (load compose new mail in a new window- not in the main Gmail interface) the flash uploader works again.

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  14. Just a followup to my previous comment:

    I am referring to Gmail flash uploader in Firefox 3.5. ;)

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  15. I think google is the most important application

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  16. This would appear just to be an attempt to lure more business users into apps premier edition..

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